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Saturday, January 18, 2014

"Don't EVER pray for Patience!!!"

   A good friend of mine said to me a few days ago... "My Momma always said, "Don't ever pray for patience.""
   Its a very true saying, one I have used a time or two as well.  For those of you who may not know, if you pray to God and ask Him to help you to be more patient, He is always faithful to answer and He will give you trials and difficulties that will be so annoying so frustrating, so that you may become more patient.  SO if you ask God to make you more patient, be prepared to get all manor of exercises in practicing patience.  The same goes for asking God to have more faith, or asking Him to make you a better person.
   Like I said, I have used this phrase myself.  But something struck me when she said it.  I got mad, in fact and I started to preach at her (witch I later asked forgiveness for).  "Boy are you right." I said.  "What ever you do, don't ask for patience."  "Because then trials come, and difficulties, and for how ever long God deems necessary He will "take you to the gym" and at the end of it you will be a stronger and more patient person!"  "And man isn't it awful when we are forced to grow, to improve and become better people than we are right now!"
       I did say I apologized.
   Why do some of us go to the Gym to work out?!  Is it because its a lot of fun?  Because of the glowing conversations we can have with the "dude" next to us on the treadmill?  We go because we want to be stronger and healthier.  Not because its pleasant or even enjoyable.

Well I am writing this post because I realized something! Are we willing to go to the Spiritual Gym?  Do we want to build our spiritual health as much as we desire to grow our physical health?  I know for me, I would much rather be comfortable... I feel more often like a spiritual child.
1 Corinthians 3:1-4
"Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?"

   I don't mean to be harsh, and I lump myself into this accusation, we all of us can be such children when it comes to growth... Any kind of growth!  This is all coming from a guy who refuses to darken the doorstep of a gym!  We don't like to exercises, because its hard, we don't study for the test, because its hard, and we don't pray for stronger faith, because that will be very, very hard!

      Testimony from someone who went to the spiritual gym...
   "I prayed to have stronger faith.  I asked God to give me the faith of an apostle, I wanted to have faith that could move mountains, cast out demons, heal the sick.  You know what happened?  A few days later I lost my job, didn't work for almost a full year.  I had to live trusting in God for every single blessed need!  And it was the hardest time of my life.  Gut wrenching trials, and wondering how things would work out.  Moments when nothing worked the way I expected but everything worked out and always at the last second God would come through in some way.  You know what else happened?  I grew a faith that has never let me down since.  I have an intimacy with God I had never had before, and I may even say could not have had, if I had not gone through that time."

   I have another friend who in prayer asked God to "Give him an unbreakable faith."  God bless him, his life is a crazy roller-coster, and he is being broken down on so many levels... but his early stage growth is something to behold!  This man is going to have faith muscles like I can't even imagine! He just may "move mountains" when its all done.

   I'm tired of being a wimp.  I'm tired of crying out to God whenever a small trial comes my way, whenever difficulties hit me.
Philippians 4:11-13
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."
   Do you see that!  How is Paul so "content whatever his circumstances!"  He was starved, stoned, ran from mobs, shipwrecked and then bit by a snake!  Anyone else would have thrown in the towel and gone home.  But who gave him the strength?  God!  Paul spent years in God's gym, working his spirit muscles into a man who was strong enough to face any trial, and its how he could endure ANYTHING including prison and martyrdom. Because his spirit was so much stronger than his flesh!  And isn't that the whole of the christians walk? To be stronger in our spirits than in our flesh?

I challenge you!  Find some portion of your spirit that you want to work on with God, and ask Him for it.  "God I want to have stronger faith."  "God give me more patience." "God help me to love my enemies." I promise you two things!
1.  God will answer, because He loves it when we invite Him into our lives.  And He LOVE's growing His children.
2.  IT WILL BE HARD!  It will cost you.  You may loose your job, have difficulties with friends or loved ones, get sick, maybe even badly sick! But our God is a loving and wonderful God, He's better than a trainer, or a coach... He's your Dad, and He will work with you, carry you, lift your weights when they are too heavy, and He will display for you and all around you just how amazing He is!  And at the end of the trial, you will look more and more like His son Jesus.

James 1:2-5
 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who do you trust?

   I am a striver.  I am a classic American man, in that I can pull myself up by my boot straps and "get er done!"  I learned a long time ago that if I had been Moses leading the children of Israel to the Red Sea, and God had told me that He was going to part the sea, and we were going to walk across on dry land.  I would gather my army of hard workers, the strong men who had in slavery built the Egyptian pyramids, and I would start an enormous work project to dam the Red Sea.  We could do it!  We can "be the miracle" that God wants to do!  And throughout history the Jews would have been known as the people who got THEMSELVES out of Egypt, not the chosen race of God, the people He rescued from Egypt!
   This lesson hit home for me back when I was "jobless".  I had been unemployed for about three months, and had spent those three months chasing down every possible job I could find.  I mean I tried everything!  I even spent a weekend working at a Waffle House!  It had been a very intense and difficult three months.
   God and I were having a conversation out in the driveway about why He would lead me here, to a place where I could find no work or even a glimmer of hope for work.  "How are we supposed to pay the bills God?"  "What am I supposed to do God?"  I was willing to do anything.  But I couldn't even get a job as a baggage handler for an airline!  
   Then God spoke.
   First I had a vision; a memory flash threw my mind really.  It was a remembrance of the story of Harrison Ford.  I don't know if the story I had heard is whole truth, but that story was what I recalled.  
   Harrison Ford was a carpenter, and was building a set for a play in a theater where they were holding auditions for American Graffiti.  They needed someone to stand in for a reading, so they asked Harrison if he would read a part.  He did so well that they asked him to act in the movie.  And then began his life in Hollywood.
   I thought of that "story" and then I heard God say...  "That is what I will do for you."  And with that sentence I had an understanding that I just need to do what God tells me, and follow His leading and I will find not just a job, but the work I would love to do.  I knew that I needed to just stop, to stop all the pushing and striving and just trust Him.
   It was around this same time that God had brought me to a small little life changing verse in Psalms.  Psalm 37:8  ... "do not fret - it leads only to evil."  A simple sentence, but the implications the impact of that sentence is so so powerful!  I am a worrier.  And what I do when I fret, is I think, "Oh man, what am I going to do?"  "How can I make this one better?" "What do I have to do to fix this problem?"  Never do I think, "God help me." or "Father, how should I navigate this issue?" do I take my issues before the throne of my King? NO I think He’s not big enough to fix this... or won’t fix it the way I want Him to.  I do the great man thing which is to hunker down, and fix it.  All by my big-boy-self!  (its so funny how my now 4year old son uses this phrase so often and it always drives me crazy)  
   Well here I am, broke... no hope of work, miracle by miracle we are paying bills, but we needed to do something, and I had the great sacrificial thought. "Sell some of your instruments!"  I had a few guitars, and a mandolin and a violin; I can sell them to provide for my family.  So off to Craig’s List I go!  
   It was about three weeks later that I got a call about my violin.  A lovely lady named Terry contacted me to see if the violin would be good for her daughter.  We met and got into a wild long conversation, everything from God, to the church, to raising children in our world today.  In the middle of a great talk Terry stops me and asks me if I work on cars.  I have always considered myself a junior mechanic, love tinkering, and thought she was asking because she was having a problem with her car.  "Yes," I said, “why is there something wrong with your car?”  "No," "My husband is opening an automotive repair shop, and I think you are supposed to be his service manager." she replied.  Apparently during our conversation, God had been telling Terry to ask me if I worked on cars, she didn’t want to, thought it was crazy, but she did!  
   Now knowing how to change spark plugs and oil filters is very different than working in the automotive industry, so I laughed and said I thought she had the wrong guy.  But I agreed to meet her husband Darrell.  We talked for over three hours.  Everything from following God's will, to life as a Christian.  It was so exciting to meet someone who was opening a business because God told him to!  And the automotive shop he was opening sounded amazing.  A Christian owned and operated automotive repair shop, well I knew I wouldn’t get the job, but it was great to know of a place I could get my car worked on!  
   The snag for my employment was that the "service manager" position, is the only one that the corporate office has to interview for.  It’s an important role and they need to approve of the person hired to do that job... so I knew I wasn’t going to get the job.  I was so confident in my unqualified position that I showed up to the corporate interview in jeans and a bowling shirt on my motorcycle.
   Well after a nice long chat about how unqualified I was, the guy from corporate turns to Darrell and Terry and says... "I think we found our man, what do you guys think?"
   Today I am the service manager for a fully Christian owned and operated automotive repair shop.  I am having a blast.  I am helping people, spreading the gospel all day long, and working with three other wonderful Christian men!  I could have never imagined a job that would delight me so much!  I never would have thought of it!  I couldn’t have "strived" for this; I never even knew it existed!  
   God told me to wait, to listen to Him, and He brought me to this job.  He gave me employment, on His time frame and in a way that I still can’t believe!  I could have gotten work, I could have pushed though and "manned up" but God doesn’t seem to want independent loners, He wants sons and daughters who go on adventures with Him.

I am learning every day, how to listen, how to follow, how to be the man You want me to be. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Motorcycle Ride to Nashville

   God told me to take a journey to Nashville on a motorcycle.  Never mind the details, though I may tell that story some day as it is also a pretty cool story... But just trust me that God told me to take a motorcycle to Nashville and visit with my friend there.  And while I didn't have a motorcycle, or a job at the time, or any money to buy a motorcycle with,  I trusted in God (which is to say that I agonized, and fretted, and questioned like crazy why God would tell me something as weird as, "take a motorcycle to Nashville" when I had no earthly way of doing such a thing) and so I patiently (ya right) pursued taking a motorcycle ride to Nashville.  Well in spite of my fretting God brought me to the motorcycle He wanted me to buy, and He also paid for it! So with the two largest obstacles out of the way I felt compelled to take a journey to Nashville.
   This motorcycle ride would lead to possibly the greatest moment of my Christian life.  This ride became for me my most powerful God encounter in my walk with God so far.  And I am humbled by the fact that I have had a few awesome moments with the Creator in my life.

   I love the apostle Peter.  I think most men love the apostle Peter.  He's a fishermen, he seems to always be saying the wrong thing at the wrong time (just like me), and I have heard him described as sort of a man's man in the company of saints.  I have noticed that most actors who portray Peter look like carpenters, or masons.  But I think the thing that so many Peter fans love about him, is that he was the one guy to get out of the boat.
   Allow a former youth minister to refresh a great story...

"There they are out on the sea of Galilee.  Rough waters and wind have been hammering them, making progress slow, and they left Jesus back on the shore a few hours ago.  Then out of nowhere a person comes walking along beside them.  Its Jesus, just strolling across the stormy water.  He tells everyone it's just him, and Peter, being Peter, says, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come out to you on the water."  Who else but Peter the brash, Peter the "jump before you think" would presume to go out with Jesus!  And man if he doesn't do it!  He starts hesitantly walking out to the Lord, and  walks on water.  Who knows how long he was out there, events like that seem like an eternity when they are only a minute, and seem like a minute in the scope of eternity, but there he was, out there with Jesus.  Then Peter starts to notice the wind, the storm, starts to wonder... Am I really doing this?  What If I sink?  Who knows what really went through his head, but it definitely caused him to lose faith, to doubt.  And he started to sink.  Well Jesus saves him, gets him back in the boat.  Tells him that he has little faith, but honestly, I didn't see any other guys out there on the water!  And they continue on their journey.

   I have heard a lot of sermons on this story, a lot of expository teaching on Peter's walk.  But for me, the question has never been about the faith issues of his walk, or the implications of his importance among the other apostles.  I always wondered what it would be like to have walked on water, just once.  Do you, like I, ever wonder if every time the apostles got together Peter would want to tell about that time when he walked on water.  That friends and family would get sick of hearing the story over and over again.  I mean come on, you don't just brush over the things that these men got to see and do!

   I have always thought that every day, for the rest of Peters life, whenever he walked past a body of water, his heart would soar, and break again.  I have this image of Peter, sitting on a dock, his feet dangling in the water, waiting to feel that firmness once again.  I always thought that would make a beautiful song.

   So I have taken my new motorcycle to Nashville.  Had a very enjoyable ride up. I found that on a motorcycle I get to a quiet, a calm place that I have never experienced before in my life.  So the ride up was a delight.  I visited with my oldest friend Kevin for five days.  I enjoyed his church, had wonderful conversation with his pastor, and generally had a lovely visit.  That was it.  Nothing miraculous, nothing amazing.  You mean I drove up here, to have a nice visit!?  I was confused, I was worried I had missed something. Why would God have sent me to Nashville to see a cool church and visit a good friend!  Was there supposed to be more?
   I decided to leave a few days earlier then I was supposed to, I think I was going to leave on Friday, but I decided to leave on Wednesday instead.  The weather guys were calling for thunderstorms for the next few days, and being on a motorcycle in the rain is a bad idea, being out in a thunderstorm is just stupid.  So I said some hasty goodbyes and headed for my four hour ride home. 
   I was about fifteen minutes out of Nashville when the sky turned purple.  Not that nice ominous black that indicates bad weather, but the purple that makes you think that at any second now a cow is going to go flying past your windshield.  I see this mess coming up towards me, and I am totally afraid.  This is a bad idea.  And so I start a discussion with God on the matter.  "Well God, looks like you wanted me to stay in Nashville a few more days."
   I am driving along, getting ready for an exit to turn back towards Nashville and away from the scary sky, and I keep seeing a big shaft of light to my left.  You know how on stormy or cloudy days the sunlight can make a light ray pointing to the ground?  Well this was like that.  The clouds were starting to cover the sky in front of me, but not behind me, so it was making this really cool light ray that was aiming in the direction I was driving.  I just kept looking at that beam of light, and I asked God a silly question.  "Are you trying to tell me to keep going God?" 
   I have heard the voice of God many ways in my life, through leadings, through His word, and even audibly though that has been the most rare of times.  Well I heard the voice of God audibly that day, and He said to me, "Ride with me, I am the calmer of the storm."
   How do you say no to an invitation like that!  So I rode.  I boldly drove right into that storm.
   After a few minutes the sky has completely covered over.  But directly in front of me is a little break in the clouds.  More like a lighter shade of gray among the black and purple.  But it's an encouraging sign.  The wind is really kicking up, and I see a lot of lighting, but it all seems distant, so I just keep on riding. 
   A little more time goes by and it starts to rain, and I notice the highway is wet, but it never really rains on the section of the highway I am driving on.  I notice it's raining to the right of me, so I figure I'm going to get pummeled, but the rain never really gets to the highway, like it just rained and I missed it.  After a little while I notice it's raining to my left as well, but again, no rain on me.  Now don't misunderstand, it's not like it was raining on the cars next to me, but not on me, like some kind of God umbrella covering just me.  The whole section of the highway I was driving on at that moment was always rain free.  Sometimes I could tell it had just rained there, and some patches were completely dry yet, but I'm a little over a half hour into the ride, and while its obvious its raining, it's not raining on me!  And I am freaking out!  I am shouting at the top of my lungs, singing praise songs, praising our God, the calmer of the storm!
   I drove like this for over an hour and a half!  I was sitting on top of the world.  More accurately, I felt a lot like Peter.  I felt like I was walking on water, like I was experiencing the true power of this creator God, NO like I was just scratching the surface of the power of our God.  I was soaring with emotions and wonder.  And I just kept thinking over and over... "just like Peter."  And I know that God was feeding me that thought.  He was revealing himself to me, and wanted me to make that connection, just like Peter.  It was amazing, nothing comes close to how I felt.
   There were moments in that ride where the highway would turn left or right, and I would get nervous, because I would be turning away from my little hole in the clouds.  I followed that hole all the way to Chattanooga.  But every now and then the road would turn.  And I would get really worried, like "ok God, now were driving into the dark part, now were in trouble."  I would brace for the storm.  But just when I started to get really worried, the road would bank back and head back towards the hole in the clouds. 
   Well I'm coming on to Chattanooga.  And things are turning for the worse in the weather department.  The sky is now completely closed over, and the clouds are visibly dropping.  Lightning is flashing over my head and thunder is rattling my chest.  Just checking in with God at this point I ask if I should keep on going, but no real answer... Just my own reminder that He told me to ride.  But I just keep looking at that sky, and its getting really ugly.
   I notice a bit of a cloud formation, it will sound funny but a section of cloud bank I was driving into was forming into a bit of a ring shape.  I'm thinking twister, I am seeing Helen Hunt in the van next to me!  I am really getting scared.  I just kept watching that sky get uglier and uglier and every time I pass an exit I think, "well now you're going to get destroyed!"  "won't be another exit for ten miles!"
   The praise fest is over, I am very concerned for my safety.  This time, I don't ask if I should keep going, I ask if I can please get off.  The ride stopped being fun.  For a second time I audibly hear the voice of God that day, "Keep going, I will take you all the way to Peachtree City." 
   Well God has been parting the storm for me for almost two hours, so of course I'm going to trust Him to get me home.  Of course not!  I am waiting for the heavens to open like a bucket and I can't take it anymore!  I say to God... "Peter had to get into the boat God, and I am no better than he."  I see a sign for Cracker Barrel, and I get off that highway before I get swept away.
   I quickly unload my bike, as the wind whips around and the clouds get much worse.  I run into Cracker Barrel, take a seat and watch for the deluge. 
   It never came. 
   It sprinkled a little bit, and then the sky lightened up to a soft gray.  I felt like such a fool, like a coward!  I sank.  I said it to myself over and over again, "You sank," knowing now for the first time ever the full weight of that reproach, "you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  It hurt, but I also felt a kinship in Peter I never could have felt otherwise, and so I wasn't too hard on myself.  Hey he sank too, and he was Peter!
   I finished up my lunch, loaded up my bike and began a much more somber completion of my trip home.  I was about five minutes out of Chattanooga when the sky opened up, and it began to pour.  I mean buckets.  I was soaked to the skin in less than a minute.  I felt like mould.  "are you punishing me Lord?" I asked aloud.  I heard a quite whisper in my mind reply, "No my son, I was trying to spare you."  And I knew that God would have taken me all the way to Peachtree City, had I not worried so much about the storms assailing me that day.  I wasn't being punished, I just missed the opportunity to soar with God a little while longer.  I also knew that I would be safe for the rest of the ride, because while I had sank, God was still with me, still beside me, and I would get home safely.  And I did arrive home safely, soaked to the bone, freezing.  Filled with joy and wonder at the fact that I had walked on water, and so heartbroken that I had sunk.
   The full impact of that day is still being revealed to me even months later.  I find myself always coming back to that moment, always holding fast the truths I learned on that ride.  In times of fear when the storms of life start battering my little family, I remember the power of the "calmer of the storm," and I am not afraid!  When God leads me to do something hard, and I have to step out in faith, I hear again that voice saying, "ride with Me."  And I will ride with Him!  I will push through, no matter the storms that attack me, because I know that I can!  Because I know that He will!  And I want to walk on water again!  I want to feel that rush, that power, that joy of being cradled in those powerful arms again!  So I will step out in faith!  And no matter what I am stepping onto, I know He will have me!
  I ride that motorcycle every chance I get, and every now and then I scan the sky's for storm clouds, ready to twist the throttle and charge that storm again. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Healing Saga, continues...

   So I'm standing in a Wal-Mart optical center... And I am trying on glasses frames.  I am particularly looking for the cheap ones, as we are really strapped for cash.  I pick up a frame off the rack and I hear a voice say, "You don't need these."  Not huge or insistent, just a thought more than anything, but definitely a thought not my own.  I try on the unflattering frames and quickly return them.  Hunting for a second pair, I find another and pull it off the rack and again I hear a voice saying, "You don't need to wear these!"  Now more insistently, a little miffed I didn't listen the first time.    
   Please understand I have worn glasses as long as I can remember.  I believe I got my first pair when I was in grade school.  I am not near sighted or far sighted, I have  astigmatism, so everything is just plain blurry, permanently out of focus.  When I take off my glasses I can't see anything very well, it's all fuzzy. 
   With this in mind I doggedly press on in my pursuit of the perfect pair of cheap frames.  Every time I pull glasses off the wall I hear the voice of God saying... "You don't need to wear these!" I mean every single frame, the same thing happens.  After about six or seven attempts at getting glasses, I am starting to feel embarrassment.  Maybe not the emotion you would have thought one should feel when hearing the voice of God, but embarrassed is what I feel.  I mean who has a huge God moment in Wal-Mart Optical?! 
   It was only a few weeks before that I had experienced my first healing over my migraines, so I am completely aware that God can and does heal at this point, and every time I picked up a frame I knew for a certainty that God was extending his healing to me over my eyes.  And frankly I am just embarrassed!  If God wanted to heal my eyesight AWESUME, could we do it like at a prayer meeting, or while someone is praying over me, how bout while I'm reading my bible!?
   Being unnerved by the insistent voice of God, I get Beth from the woman's frames section and under the pretences of not finding anything I like, I ask her to leave with me.  So we go walking around Wal-Mart. 
   Have you ever tried on someone else's glasses?  It's an interesting experience to see life through someone else's eyes.  You will notice that nothing looks right, and if you look around for a period of time you will start to get sick, like carsick, because the world is coming at you all wrong. 
   Beth and I are heading Benji over to the toy section, and I am stumbling through trying to tell her what happened to me in the optical center.  Again, just embarrassed about the whole thing and of course, I'm still wearing my glasses so not only am I embarrassed about what God had been telling me, but embarrassed because I was still wearing the things!  And as we are walking I am getting sick... the world is coming at me all wrong... like I am wearing someone else's glasses.
   We get to the toy department, to my sons delight, and I can't stand it anymore.  I go to take the glasses off my face.  Again a huge well of shame and embarrassment flood me as I take them off.  Thoughts of, "You fool, you're not healed."  and "Everyone is looking at you take off your glasses."  go burning through my mind, but I take them off and put them in my pocket.  And I can see.  I mean I CAN SEE!  I am seeing everything clearly.  I'm pulling boxes off the shelves and reading all the text.  I am looking far, and near and its all perfectly clear! 
   Now I am full of joy, leaping down the aisles and singing praise songs!  No not really... now I am really embarrassed, and I am completely conscious of the fact that everyone in the store is looking at the guy who, "I swear was wearing glasses when he came in here."  I am so embarrassed because I had kept wearing my glasses after we left the optical center, I am embarrassed that I am embarrassed, and I am embarrassed because... well man this is just weird!  I still think it is weird!  I struggle even now with the fact that God healed my eyes.  Why did He heal my eyesight?  Why my eyes when people all over are praying for healing from cancer and disease and for their sick children!? I would gladly lose my eyesight completely to save a child with cancer, so why did God heal my eyes? 
   A few days ago I was retelling this story to a couple of people, and my wife pointed out that I sound embarrassed when I tell how God healed me... and it's true.  I seem to tell my healing stories with shame, and I don't exactly know why.  Maybe it's because I am afraid of what people will think, or maybe because it wasn't some amazing mountain top experience that lead to scales coming off my eyes or something like that. I mean it was just God telling me to take off my glasses, nothing special about that. (Man how horrible that I think that way!)  But I think honestly the biggest reason I am embarrassed is because I don't understand it.  I don't understand what this is all about, why God has been healing me.  I know that He has healed me because He loves me.  And I know He is displaying His power in all of this, so to God be the glory!  But frankly I just don't understand it, I don't really understand God so It's no surprise that I don't understand the healing.
   Well I spend three days marveling at the fact that I can see.  And I spend three days trying to understand why, how and what.  I thought all kinds of things like... "maybe you never really needed the glasses and God just pointed it out." or "could I be 'willing' myself to see clearly, kind of like a reverse hypochondriac?"  And I am testing my vision out constantly, I mean every second I am looking at road signs and focusing on anything I can to see if my vision is really clear.  Well on day four, I lost my sight.
   I woke up in the morning, and all was blurry.  I thought it was just "morning eye" so I rubbed a lot and kept waiting to see again, but it never popped back in.  Just fuzzy all day!  It was the most heart breaking, and embarrassing day I have had in this whole journey.  I am muddling through the day, wondering what happened... and I KNEW what happened, but I didn't want to confess it, I don't want to admit it even now.  Later that evening I actually went into my bedroom, took my glasses off the shelf and was about to put them back on.  I was getting so frustrated that I couldn't see.  I was standing there, glasses in my hand, ready to throw in the towel on the whole "healing" thing.  And I realized standing there that if I put those glasses back on my face, I would forever be denying that God could heal my eyes.  So I put the glasses back on the shelf and I went and found Beth and confessed to her that I hadn't been able to see a thing that whole day. 
   My wife is a kind and wonderful woman with a gift for being a truth speaker.  After I told her what had happened to me through the day, she gently and lovingly pointed out that I had no faith.  It was true!  After three days of doubting, denying and trying to analyze the fact that I could see, I finally just didn't believe it anymore!  And I lost it.  I had lost my eyesight!
   Can you imagine the scene.  Jesus is walking round the sea of Galilee preaching, teaching and healing, and a leper comes out of the crowd.  Jesus touches him, the spots disappear, and Jesus tells him, "your faith has made you whole."  And then three days later the leper shows up at another gathering with Jesus, shouting, "Hey!  It came back!  What kind of trash healing are you passing out bud!"
   What was the one thing that Jesus said every time he healed someone?  "your faith has healed you."  I think there are like two or three exceptions to this rule in the bible.  Every time it's the same, "Your faith has made you whole, now go and sin no more."  I always figured that the faith part was more in line with, "belief brought you to the healing."  What I mean by that is, if I were a leper, and I sought out Jesus for a healing, then my "faith" that he can heal would have motivated me to find him and receive the healing.  But I realized that the healing is in direct relationship to the faith.  If I don't believe he can heal me, then would I accept the healing?  It's like a friend trying to lend me money.  If I don't believe he can afford to loan me a few bucks, then I flat out won't accept his cash.  But if I know he can... well then my bills are getting paid!
   The fact of day four, when I lost my sight, is that my faith is small.  God healed me, but my faith was weak.  I really didn't believe that He had healed me, so I returned the gift.  With Beth by my side I prayed and confessed to God that I didn't believe.  I asked His forgiveness and was resigned to whatever came of my failed faith.  When I opened my eyes from prayer, my sight was back, clear as a bell.  And it pretty much has been back ever since.
   That healing was over two months ago, and still to this day my sight will pop out occasionally.  I would say conservatively that I can see perfectly eighty five percent of the time.  The interesting wrinkle to my sight going when it does (and I am still processing this, so this is not a fully certain statement) is that I have noticed that when I am doing something outside of God's will, when I am trying to make something happen, or pushing too hard to force my agenda in something, my sight pops out.  For example, I have written this story about five times now.  Each time I attempted to write it, I couldn't see a word I was typing, my vision was a mess.  Tonight my vision has been clear as a bell throughout the whole thing, confirming in my heart that this is the post I should publish.  I don't know one hundred percent that this is the cause of my occasional vision losses, but I have a suspicion that it is.  I will keep you posted on that one later I hope.
   So here I am, vision healed, at Wal-Mart.  I have been healed, of migraines, my vision, and my asthma, which I hope to share as well.  Though like all my healing experiences, the healing of my asthma was also kind of a non event, so it will be a shorter post I am sure!  I testify to the healing power of God!  I testify to the awesome God who is so huge as to breath this universe into being, and so small as to care about some guys astigmatism.

My name is Jake Beveridge, and I am LOVING being a "Weird Christian"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Have been Healed!

   I am not kidding when I say this is attempt number six to write this.  It is so hard to write about how God has healed me.  Two reasons I think... First I am afraid.  To acknowledge that I have experienced divine healing is pretty weird, fringe Christianity,  and I have no idea how you will receive it.  Will you think I'm crazy?  Will you doubt it to be true?  Honestly I still doubt it to be true sometimes myself!  So why wouldn't you!  Secondly it just doesn't make sense.  I don't understand why I got healed (other than I have an awesome God who loves me!), why did God chose to heal me, and not others?  The circumstances and the way He healed me are, well there just not how I would have imagined receiving healing, so how could this be!  A few days ago a good friend of mine had said, "It's so hard to tell others about what God is doing, when we don't understand it ourselves."  If that isn't the crux of what I have been struggling with.  I don't fully understand this, and I am afraid of what you may think of all of this, but come Hell or high water, this is the post I will be publishing!
So...  Over the last month, God has healed me of...
·         Crippling Migraines,  I mean these things were so bad, last year I lost three months too what is known as a chaining migraine.  I have gone to the hospital twice, maybe three times with them.  COMPLEATLY HEALED!
·         A lifelong struggle with Asthma.  Again, not an occasional attack treated with over the counter drugs, I spent the majority of my middle school life in hospitals with severe asthma attacks, and five months in a hospital in Denver CO, to get it under control.  I have taken the strongest medications and still battled my whole life with them.  COMPLEATLY HEALED!
·         My eyesight.  Which still perplexes me because frankly I always looked good in glasses!  I have worn glasses since grade school.  Had a decent astigmatism, everything is just blurry without my glasses.  COMPLEATLY HEALED!
Each of these healings have their own story, so I suppose I should tell each one in a separate post so as not to weary the reader.

   "I have always been a sickly person."  That sentence is kind of what started it all for me.  It's a phrase I have said many times, a "truth" I have believed about myself for... well for all my life.  And how could I not have believed that!
   At age five I had my first major surgery, kidney stones.  Then asthma, infections, gallbladder surgery, collapsed lung, migraines, sleep apnea and let's not even mention cold and flu season!  I just remember my child hood as always being sick.  I have seen the inside of more hospitals then I ever care to recount!  And put more doctors children through college then I will ever know.  I am thirty four and I think my parents are still paying medical bills from my childhood.
   I was at our bible study back in August I believe, the topic was finished and everyone was chatting before we gathered up the kids to head home, and I just happen to utter my phrase, "I have always been a sickly person."  The host of our study group heard me say that, and from across the room full of people announces, "That is a lie!, I refuse to agree with that!" 
   We got into a discussion for a few hours that night about healing.  It was eye opening.  I have always believed in Gods power to heal, have even known people who claimed healing.  But another favorite phrase of mine has always been, "I believe God can heal, but I don't believe He will heal me."  That night I was very challenged about why I had made such a horrible "agreement."  And we went home that night heads swirling with speculation, and wonder.
   The next day, I woke up with one of my infamous migraines coming on.  I got out of bed and with half a heart I prayed.  For the first time in my life I believed God could heal me, and I asked for that healing.  The migraine went away.  That was it!  No angels appearing, no choir singing, not even an elevated heart rate!  I just felt better.  I was thrilled, a little disappointed in the lack of event, but thrilled!  It came on again about an hour later, so I prayed again.  Again it left.  I almost had a migraine eight times that day.  And each time I prayed it away.  That day was the day I was healed of migraines!  And that healing was what opened the door to the other healings in my life.  Because I knew that I had been healed, I also knew God could heal me completely of everything I have struggled with!
   Have you ever noticed that every time Jesus healed someone, He would always say, "your faith healed you." or some variation of that statement  I always thought that He was being somewhat facetious, or maybe just polite... like when someone says, "you're the man," and you respond with, "NO you're the man!" all the while knowing full well that if anyone is getting the, "you're the man," award, it's you at that moment. 
   I was challenged by the fact that Jesus really meant what He said... all the time.  And when He said, "your faith has healed you."  He really meant that because you believed in me and my power to heal, you have been healed!  It's how the apostles healed as well, people believed in the power of Jesus Christ, and they received the healing that the apostles offered. 
   I always imagined that if I were to experience "faith" healing, it would be at the hands of an overdressed, slightly balding, profusely sweating, tent revival preacher, who in the glory name of Jesus calls down righteous healing on my broken body!  But I have been rudely awoken to the fact that "faith" healing involves only one ingredient... FAITH!  For the first time in my life I believed that God was fully capable of healing, and it opened the door to a complete healing of my whole body!  And nowhere was there any saint of Christianity to be found.  It was just me and God, working out how big and awesome and capable He actually is!
   It seems very simple, believe, truly know in your hear that Jesus still heals, and you will be healed.  But it takes a colossal amount of work to get to a place where you actually believe.  And even then you have to battle with your unbelief, but that is a story for how God healed my eyesight!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Am Sitting in a Life Raft

   I have been in this raft for six months now.  My family is with me, and we are in the middle of the ocean.  The supplies ran out about a month ago.  And I am lost.  For five solid months I have been paddling like a mad man!  Eyes glued to the horizon, desperate for a sign of land, or for another ship to come by.
   God put me in this raft.  Six months ago He sunk the ship I was on (told me he would) and put my family into this dinky little boat.  Things were ok at first, we had supplies and we had time to take some precious possessions, and I thought... "Ok, well, God put us here, won't be long now and another ship will sail by."  So eyes glued to the horizon I calmly started rowing a little, a few pushes here, a few strokes there, we're ok, we have all we need.  Any second now I will see something and we can head towards it.  A week goes by, still calm, even trying to enjoy this adventure a little.  A month goes by, now getting nervous, paddling a little more, singing hymns and songs of praise to keep up spirits, because mine is the one in need of lifting.
   After two months of this I am now paddling like crazy.  I have had a lot to say to God, and He has had a lot to say back.  He's telling me crazy stuff like, "Stop rowing," "I have you, I have your family."  But I don't see any hope in sight!  The supplies are running low and we are taking on water, and I see storm clouds in the distance!  To Hell with, "Stop rowing," we need land!  I am rowing to every speck on the horizon, praying that it be a ship, or land,  or anything!  I have paddled north, south, east and west, probably making a big circle, but I am relentless!  I will save my family! 
   My family... God bless them, they are watching me struggle, and strive and try so hard to save us.  They know God put us here too.  My wife tries to calm me, It's ok," she says, "God has us, He has to do something, He didn't bring us out here to die!"  But I see the strain in her eyes, hear her fear, see how hard this has been on her.  So I will paddle harder, I will work this out!  Beth sees all the luggage in the boat, sees how some of it is tearing holes, letting in the ocean.  Me, I just see the horizon, the empty horizon, and those dark clouds.  She gets to work, trying to throw off some of the weight, and keep the water from coming in... should she?  I don't know...  I don't know anything anymore. 
   Me, I just keep on pushing.  It's now four months of this madness.  Supplies are down to scraps, Beth is bravely bailing water, and my heart is broken!  "WHERE ARE YOU GOD?!"  I scream, shaking my paddle at the sky!  "Why have to put us here!?"  He answers, "Don't you trust Me?"  "I want this for you." "Can't you trust Me?"  He tells me hundreds of things, "I am the calmer of the storm, ride with me!"  He says.  "I can bring you all the supplies you need, but I will bring them in my time and my way."  "You will walk on air, you will walk on water."  "for I know the plans I have for you."  He's showing me signs and miracles! He is displaying His power over and over again... but it's not land, it's not a boat. We are still here.
   I hang my head in shame. "I don't trust you," I say.  The supplies are gone now, were at the end of ourselves. Six months of an ever increasing God and an ever diminishing world.  "I trusted in my own strength," I realize.  And now I don't know what to do! Every now and then I catch a glimpse of something on the horizon, I lift my oar, but with resignation realize there was nothing there, and don't even bother to paddle.  My heart is broken, because I know I would have rather been a slave on that ship, then in this place of frantic desperation. I know how much that must hurt my God to know.  I see my wife still bailing, trying hard to encourage me to do the right thing.  I see her looking at the horizon too. 
   What must I do!  How do I sit! Wait! TRUST!  When all I relied upon is gone!? When all I knew to be true has been stripped away!  When all I held onto has been replaced by a God I do not understand.  I grip my oar, determined to NOT paddle unless you tell me too.

Tonight You tell me to throw my oar into the ocean.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's not the beginning, but its a start...

    I am standing in a basement, about forty or so people sitting or standing in every open corner and space, excitedly talking in whispers and the occasional outburst.  When after a brief welcome and biography the person we had all come to hear enters the room.  Dressed all in black with a flowing red scarf she takes center stage in the room, and quickly leaps into a story of a demon possessed child.  Already I am both skeptical and concerned, (concerned because a few weeks prior I had gone threw a eyeopening battle with the devil, skeptical because I am still, as I write this, trying to retreat to the "normal" christian life that sits quietly in pews, fingers in ears, hands over eyes, ignoring the truths of the world around us!) and afraid of what in the world I had been invited to this night in this basement.  The woman speaking reminds me of a combination Joan Rivers, (without the scary plastic surgery) Emeril Lagasse and Benny Hinn.  As she haphazardly retells the story of the demon possessed child, she then in a loud and hoarse voice announces to the room, "Well I just told that Devil... BAM!"  And she kicks the air like Chuck Norris would kick a bad guy in Walker, Texas Ranger, "And Satan left that child that very second."
    At this point Jake wants to tune out.  Obviously this woman is crazy!  And the people gathered tonight, sitting on the edge of their seats... Well they are either nuts too, or they are as confused as I am, wondering what they are doing here.
    The evening continues on, the woman tells a lot of stories of freeing people from evil, and gives a very moving testimony.  Throughout the night she is throwing out Scripture verses like a machine gun.  I figure... "Some of these quotes have got to be wrong."  So I start "fact checking" her to prove the charade this evening is.  And I can say that woman used about twenty or so verses that night if not more and she NAILED each one.  Ok so she knows the word, that does not mean this is legit!  Right? All honor was given to God, in fact the woman referred to herself as, "the donkey that Jesus rides in on" which I thought was awesome, but could that mean that she was really giving all honor to God?
    During the evening she would be inspired to speak "prophesy" over people in the audience, telling them something about themselves or that God wanted them to know.  A friend of mine was standing next to me and he leaned in to me and said, "Watch out, she's coming after you next!"  And I can honestly say, a huge part of me was scared that she would come to me, and another part was really excited about the prospect! What would she say, would it be true?
    After the teaching and stories were done the "prayer" meeting started.  A very simple worship song was put on, and most of the people in the crowed got whipped up into a absolute fervor.
    I have never been in agreement with speaking in tongues.  I have seen a lot of it in my years of ministry, even have a few friends who pray in tongues, and have educated me to their prayer language.  I'm ok with others doing it, but its out of my comfort zone...
          Total side note here but I guess the whole reason for my writing this is because over the last five months or so God has been forcibly pushing me out of my comfort zone.
    Well the whole room starts speaking in tongues!  Chattering and gibbering, and rocking back and forth... a few people were not, but we were the outsiders, the observers of this evening.  Now the Benny Hinn comes into play.  People come forward for healing.  The woman belts forth some prayer in tongues then slams her hand on the recipients forehead and says either, "BAM" or, "Shalum" (shouting in tongues) in one case she actually roared in a woman's ear.  Once the hand hit the head, the person prayed for hit the floor!  I kid you not!  Right to the floor.  It was like something out of a movie!  And once prayed for the recipient laid on the floor like the dead for a long time.
    Like a bad car accident, or a burning building, I had been watching this evening unfold with a combination horror, interest and out and out disbelief.  It was time for me to go.  I had seen enough and didn't know what to think about what I had seen.  This woman truly knew the scriptures, she certainly loved Jesus and she gave all glory to God, but this is NOT Christianity.... Right?  This isn't the way good Christians behave?!
Why is healing a joke among us Christians?  Why is it that the majority of Christians today don't believe in the Devil or demonic forces?  Why is it that events like this prayer meeting make Christians run in fear, laugh in derision, and deny that God can do ANYTHING!  PEOPLE have you read the Bible!  It all reminds me of the Casting Crowns song... "If we are the body."
"But if we are the Body 
Why aren't His arms reaching 
Why aren't His hands healing 
Why aren't His words teaching 
And if we are the Body 
Why aren't His feet going 
Why is His love not showing them there is a way 
There is a way" 
   My confession is that a few months ago, I would have chalked this experience up to the crazy side of Christianity, if it was Christianity at all!  BUT I have had some really wild experiences over the last few months.  Moments where God has audibly spoken.  Experiences where God has told me to do something crazy and I did it, and He showed me how awesome He is!  (those stories will come soon!) And yes I have even experienced healing!  I have always been sick, my whole life, and by the power and authority of God I have been healed!  Another story for another Post.  Because of these experiences,  I couldn't just laugh off that evening in the basement.  I can't laugh or mock anything done where all honor is being given to God and where the truth of God's word is accurately being used.
    I left the basement that night very bewildered, and with a thought in my mind.  If God wanted to say something to me, then He would have to chase me, I wasn't sticking around to get cornered into this thing.  So I left, not expecting God to give any validation to the events of the night.
    I was in the driveway telling God how I felt about the evening.  A couple who had been at the event came up behind me.  I knew them fairly well, pillars of the christian community in this town.  Frankly, I was shocked to see them there.  I just casually mentioned my incredulity at the events of the evening, and that was the moment, there in the driveway where God chose to chase me down.
    This lovely couple began explaining some of the night, but more they started discussing what I believed and speaking to some of the events I had been going through over the past few months.  We had a prayer meeting there on the street outside of the house where wild Christianity was taking place in a basement.  The prayer they prayed for me was divine.  It was God speaking over me, it was so much of what I needed to hear in reference to my life and my experiences.  And while I didn't hit the ground, I felt like I had been floored by what God was saying to me.  And more then that, He HAD chased me!  He wouldn't let me leave that basement, He chased me to the driveway and there He told me what I needed to hear.
    I have always viewed this stuff as "weird Christianity" and have been joking with Beth for a while now that we are becoming those weird Christians.  When I experienced healing, when I had to battle with the Devil, and when I stared taking wild leaps of faith (much to the shock and horror of many of my friends) I started down a journey into what real Christianity is about.  Even the reason for writing this Blog (something I never wanted to do) is because a good friend moved by the Holy Spirit within him told me that this is what God would have me do with my time right now.  I am doing this at a directive of a very real, very involved and very wonderful God.

Christianity has become a Religion.  It is not a religion, it is a relationship!  I have been a full time youth minister for nine years, and only a few months ago did I start to grasp how real our God is, how intimately involved in our lives He is.  And most importantly the rich, adventuresome, and wild life He has in store for all of us!

My name is Jake Beveridge, and I have been pushed forcibly into a wild, unexpected, and weird relationship with the most awesome God.